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Wednesday, February 3, 1999 Published at 12:34 GMT


Evans to bid for digital radio

DJ Chris Evans wants a major stake in digital radio

Virgin Radio's Chris Evans has gone into partnership with the owner of Talk Radio, Kelvin MacKenzie and a US broadcaster in an effort to dominate the the UK's digital airwaves.

The three companies have formed a consortium to apply for every regional commercial digital licence when it is offered, starting with Greater London this August.

Virgin Radio, Talk Radio and the US Clear Channel will have equal equity stakes in the new company, which is has yet to be named.

Rivals for the regional multiplex licences include Emap's commercial radio companies and Capital Radio who are joining forces with Chrysalis radio.

National deal last year

[ image: Kelvin Mackenzie: Sees digital radio as the future]
Kelvin Mackenzie: Sees digital radio as the future
Last October the consortium Digital One was given the green light by the UK's Radio Authority to launch a national commercial digital radio.

Ten stations - including existing Classic, Virgin and Talk Radio services - will be broadcast on the multiplex, a group of linked stations and the only one planned for national commercial radio.

Digital One was the sole applicant for the national licence. GWR holds the 57% majority share, with transmission company NTL owning 33% and Talk Radio UK 10%. Chris Evans' Ginger Media Group, which owns Virgin Radio, dropped out of this consortium early in 1998 but will be broadcast as a «tenant' of Digital One.

'The future of radio'

Talk Radio chairman and chief executive Mr MacKenzie said: "We have always seen digital as the future of radio at both a national and local level."

The new consortium also plans to apply for licences in central Scotland, north east and north west England, the West Midlands and the Severn estuary, which will be rolled out by the Radio Authority over time.

Like television, radio could be transformed by digital technology, which has the capacity to provide CD quality sound and many more stations.

The BBC has been broadcasting digital signals for some time, but digital receivers are still expensive and not yet popular with the public.

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